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What Exactly Happened During Hummingbird?

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By: Editor
November 20, 2013
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What Exactly Happened During Hummingbird?

Google's most recent announcement about its algorithm change was “Hummingbird.” Hummingbird is an entirely new algorithm. It approaches search engine queries in a brand new (and intelligent) way, utilizing new technology combined with older features of the existing algorithms. It is named for the speed and accuracy of the tiny bird.

Digital Marketers, specifically those in SEO, often find themselves stressed, nervous and paranoid when Google announces anything – myself included. We have a tendency to (over)react when Google makes an announcement or change. Although it is not commonly known, Google makes multiple changes every day to the search algorithm.

Cases like this webmaster, who is desperately thinking he was penalized by Hummingbird, are not uncommon.

Google's Announcement of a Change

One thing that doesn't help any business is the lack of clarity from Google. For instance, Hummingbird is not mentioned in an official document (including the posts from its 15th anniversary). Google's SVP of Search, Amit Singhal, contributed to some of this confusion with “off-the-record” statements regarding this update.

The announcement and official declaration about Hummingbird came as a result of Danny Sullivan’s coverage of the event and FAQ. The latter, which was published immediately after the anniversary celebration, makes the first direct reference to Singhal’s comments.

So, Is SEO Really Dead?

After tons of murmurs about Hummingbird finally killing SEO, I'd like to clarify one thing: SEO is not dead. Nothing is going to fundamentally change how we rank within Google, with the possible exception of the revitalization of the long tail keyword. Everything we have known before the release of Hummingbird will still work. This includes:

  1. Content is king; original and engaging content is still one of the most important factors
  2. Legitimate backlinks that are earned using proper SEO are still vitally important
  3. Keywords will still need to be carefully and strategically placed (and of course, used in moderation)
  4. Signals that have worked in the past will continue to furnish results

How Can We Take Advantage of Hummingbird?

According to KISSmetrics, a blog about analytics, marketing and testing, here are some ways that you can take advantage of Hummingbird:

Hummingbird is an Invitation to Opportunity – What matters most is giving search engines more opportunities to find you. This means broadening your horizons by expanding the number of entrance pages that answer the questions being posed in your niche. More entrance pages with original content will accomplish several goals that can help with Hummingbird on the prowl.

The Hummingbird Algorithm Opens Doors – In essence, nothing changes unless you have not been doing the things that you should be doing to be noticed. Creativity is what is needed if your business wants to compete in an incredibly competitive keyword market. Original content needs to be produced as often as possible.

If your business is to grow, the website and its corresponding blog needs to grow. The same thing that worked before, should still work with Hummingbird, especially if the content contains the answers to current topics from which questions may arise.

Hummingbird and the Opportunity for More Exposure – When you really think about it, the release of Hummingbird creates the perfect scenario for smaller websites to gain more exposure. The incentive to create more entrance pages and be as creative and daring as larger sites should bring about a new prosperity.

What Can I Do Next Time?

When Google announces an update – especially on of sizable proportion like Hummingbird – the best thing you can do is to avoid trying to immediately understand it using intuition alone. It is better to wait until the hype is over, examine all relevant and key facts, take the time to see the update in action and calmly investigate. From that point, and from that point only, you will be able to see what changes or actions you would need to make to your SEO strategy.

[Image Source: Search Engine Land]


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Alex Schenker
December 17, 2013 at 1:09 AM
Great article Cassandra. Like you say, Hummingbird presents an opportunity, as have past algorithm updates. We'll see in 2014 who takes advantage of them.
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